Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rick Warren: Exploiting Tragedy to Sell Hate

Every national tragedy such as the shooting in Aurora, Colorado on Friday morning brings a particular type of lowlife out of the manure pile. These are people who exploit the heartbreak others are forced to endure to enrich themselves economically and politically.

(See: Rick Warren: Aurora shooting the fault of evolution)

Reverend Rick Warren tweeted shortly after the shooting, "When students are taught that they are no different from animals, they act like it."

Warren makes his living in part by selling hatred and fear of those who do not share his religion. He is not content to say, "We disagree." His message is, "You must hate and fear these people," offering reasons that are entirely unfounded. "Now, send me money and help me spread this message."

A morally responsible and respectable human being would not want to make such an accusation flippantly. We are talking about promoting hatred and fear of others - an act that a decent human being does not take lightly.

However, Warren made his statements out of ignorance - some of it willful.

First, there are assumptions he made that he cannot know. What were the shooter's beliefs about humans being different from animals? The vast majority of Americans believe in a God and and a human soul. With no evidence to the contrary, the responsible first guess is that the shooter believed in a God and a soul. Warren's first guess is to toss responsibility aside and go with a hate message he could sell.

Morally, this is no different than a KKK leader hearing about a rape and immediately ranting about how this proves how dangerous blacks are - without knowing anything about the race of the perpetrator. Worse, it is like doing so in a region where white people commit 80 to 90 percent of all rapes. These types of facts do not matter to the racist in this example. What matters is using news of a violent rape to sell his particular brand of hate by planting a fear of blacks in the public mind before the facts have a chance to catch up.

What if this were an example of the one-in-five rapes committed by blacks in this community. Our racist in this example will get the race of the perpetrator right 1/5th of the time. This is still hate-mongering bigotry. We still have good reason to hold in contempt anybody who acts this way.

Second, there are the assumptions in Rick Warren's hate that are not only false, but that a responsible person would have at least known to be questionable.

This includes the assertion that evolutionary theory teaches that humans are no different from animals.

Does evolution teach that lions are no different from grasshoppers? Are we plagued by a problem whereby evolutionists find themselves incapable of pointing to the elephant because it is no different than the peacock?

That there are differences between humans and animals is quite well known. Perhaps they are not as great as some humans want to believe - but they clearly exist. They include the capacity to make complex moral systems - systems that aim to secure the safety and liberty of each of us.

Find me an evolutionist who denies this difference and teaches that it does not exist.

Bearing false witness against a whole group of people in order to prosper by selling hatred of that group is something that humans - most humans - have the capacity to recognize as behavior they have reason to condemn, unless personal avarice or unreasoned thinking clouds their ability to tell right from wrong.

Third, ironically, if somebody actually cares about preventing these types of tragedies - rather than exploiting them to sell a message of hate - they would not be diverting attention from understanding what actually happened.

The way to prevent these types of events in the future is by accurately understanding its real causes. This will give us the information we need either to prevent those causes from materializing or to predict an event before it happens. People who want to save lives and prevent tragedy would want this.

What gives us the ability to understand, explain, predict, and avoid harms such as this is science.

Ironically, science in this case recognizes that the human brain is the product of billions of years of evolution. Understanding, explaining, predicting, and learning how to avoid the harms that spring from a human brain is substantially aided by understanding the evolutionary history of human brains.

Warren is not only exploiting the pain and suffering of others to profit from a message of hate, he is helping to ensure that there are future tragedies to profit from. Rather than contributing to an accurate understanding of what happened, he clutters our understanding with nonsense and hate.

I want to take this opportunity to assert that there are atheists who think this way as well - who are just as prepared to blame "religion" as Warren was to blame belief in evolution. Those atheists would have pounced at any suggestion that the shooter had religious motives - selling hate by using a broad brush to condemn all religion.

However, the fact that there are contemptible atheists does not justify the hate-mongering of contemptible theists such as Warren. Furthermore, here is an example of an atheist blogger using this as another opportunity to tell other atheists, "Don't do that!" - a message some responsible and moral theists should be telling Rick Warren.

I am not blaming religion for Rick Warren's contemptible behavior. I am blaming Rick Warren - and all who act like him - without regard as to whether they believe in a god or not.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You have touched on one of the big differences between the atheist community and religious communities. Atheists will publicly condemn fellow atheists for poor behavior. Theists will not publicly condemn fellow religionists for poor behavior unless they can distance themselves from their belief set in some way - the "not a real Christian" defence. Even then, it is extremely rare for religious authorities to denounce and actively try to contain the behavior of its badly behaved factions.

An exception to this general reluctance was apparent when a Christian's public threat to burn a copy of the Koran resulted in the preventable deaths of a number of innocent people. Among the many secular and atheist people who condemned this irresponsible hate mongering were a few Christians. This, however, does not exonerate the majority of silent bystanders or change their very different sense of moral responsibility.